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John Dryden (1631–1700).  The Poems of John Dryden.  1913.
 
Epistles and Complimentary Addresses
To Mr. Lee, on his Alexander
 
THE BLAST 1 of common Censure cou’d I fear,
Before your Play my Name shou’d not appear;
For ’twill be thought, and with some colour too,
I pay the Bribe I first receiv’d from You:
That mutual Vouchers for our Fame we stand,        5
To play the Game into each other’s Hand;
And as cheap Pen’orths to our selves afford
As Bessus, and the Brothers of the Sword.
Such Libels private Men may well endure,
When States, and Kings themselves are not secure:        10
For ill Men, conscious of their inward guilt,
Think the best Actions on By-ends are built,
And yet my silence had not scap’d their spight,
Then envy had not suffer’d me to write,
For, since I cou’d not Ignorance pretend,        15
Such worth I must or envy or commend.
So many Candidates there stand for Wit,
A place in Court is scarce so hard to get;
In vain they crowd each other at the Door;
For ev’n Reversions are all beg’d before:        20
Desert, how known so e’re, is long delay’d;
And, then too, Fools and Knaves are better payd.
Yet, as some Actions bear so great a Name
That Courts themselves are just, for fear of Shame:
So has the mighty Merit of your Play        25
Extorted praise, and forc’d it self a Way.
’Tis here, as ’tis at Sea; who farthest goes,
Or dares the most, makes all the rest his Foes;
Yet when some Virtue much out-grows the rest,
It shoots too fast, and high, to be opprest; 2        30
As his Heroic worth struck Envy dumb,
Who took the Dutchman, and who cut the Boom:
Such praise is yours, while you the Passions move,
That ’tis no longer feign’d; ’tis real Love:
Where Nature Triumphs over wretched Art;        35
We only warm the Head, but you the Heart,
Alwayes you warm! and if the rising Year,
As in hot Regions, bring the Sun too near,
’Tis but to make your Fragrant Spices blow,
Which in our colder Climates will not grow.        40
They only think you animate your Theme
With too much Fire, who are themselves all Phle’me:
Prizes wou’d be for Lags of slowest pace,
Were Cripples made the Judges of the Race.
Despise those Drones, who praise while they accuse        45
The too much vigour of your youthful Muse:
That humble Stile which they their Virtue make
Is in your pow’r; you need but stoop and take.
Your beauteous Images must be allow’d
By all, but some vile Poets of the Crowd.        50
But how shou’d any Sign-post-dawber know
The worth of Titian, or of Angelo?
Hard Features every Bungler can command;
To draw true Beauty shews a Masters Hand.

JOHN DRYDEN.    
 
Note 1. Text from the original prefixt to Lee’s tragedy of The Rival Queens, 1677, republished in 1694. [back]
Note 2. opprest] exprest 1694: supprest Scott. [back]
 
 
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